View Header


                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Canberra, Australia)
For Immediate Release                                  November 20, 1996
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                          National Press Club
                          Canberra, Australia

1:43 P.M. (L)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you very much. I'm going to talk about the meeting between Prime Minister Howard and the President this morning.

The meeting started with a one-on-one session with about 20 minutes between the two men before a small number of us on each side joined them. At the point at which we joined them, Prime Minister Howard mentioned that during the preceding 20 minutes the two men had had a very good political discussion concerning the role of government and how it had changed over the years, and the importance in democracies of generating and sustaining public support for international security and economic goals.

This 20 minutes between the two men was always intended as an -- since this was their first meeting, was always intended as an opportunity for them to get to know one another a bit without assembled ears, and to share some views on political life, both of them having just come through an election.

Following that, the discussion went on for about 40 minutes, very wide ranging. We can really group it, I think, into two categories, though: discussions about the alliance, both on the security side and the economic side; and then on regional issues, the two most interesting I think were China and APEC.

On the issues of the Alliance, Prime Minister Howard mentioned that there have been some differences between him and the previous governments in terms of foreign policy, but that there would be a continuity on support for the U.S. -- there would certainly be a continuity on support for the U.S.-Australian alliance, that he intended to deepen and reinvigorate what he perceived an already strong relationship. They spoke about the need to transform what had been a Cold War alliance into something that was contemporary and relevant, both to the world and to the region.

The President indicated that he was in basic agreement with that and that he felt, in fact, there ought to be a new dimension to the U.S.-Australian partnership over the course of the next 20 years, as we were passing from -- a generation of World War II was passing behind us where there had been an enormous number of people-to-people contacts and we needed to reinvigorate the good feelings and good images that we had of one another, and that we ought to rededicate ourselves to the partnership so that we could promote regional stability, regional growth and regional freedom. Both men agreed that that would be their common goal.

They also made reference to the Australia-U.S. ministerial meeting that took place this July between our Secretaries of State and Defense and their counterparts in Australia. Both men expressed pleasure and satisfaction that the discussion had agreed that we needed to modernize our security relationship and reaffirm that we would undertake joint training of our forces. The operation there is called Tandem Thrust and it's going to start in March of next year -- joint training of American and Australian forces in northern Australia. Actually, that Tandem Thrust exercise will involve 22,000 American and Australian forces, the largest number that have trained together since the Second World War.

In summing up on the alliance, the security side, I think both men felt that this alliance was in good shape and that what we needed to do was care and tend it rather than reinvent it.

On the economic side, the Prime Minister mentioned the importance of supporting global trade liberalization and using APEC as a catalyst to spur additional liberalization in the international system. Looking toward the APEC meeting in Manila, the Prime Minister argued that each of the APEC economies should table strong individual action plans and that he would hope that Manila would be a kick-start for trade liberalization within APEC and that we could use the 12 months on the way to Vancouver next year to ensure that APEC sunk its roots deeply.

The President concurred that APEC was an important vehicle for regional integration and made a strong pitch for giving a boost to the WTO telecommunications services negotiation by having APEC leaders endorse the idea of going to free trade and information technology products, which represent a sector worth over a trillion dollars in trade.

The Prime Minister turned to bilateral issues, mentioned the importance of Australia's primary commodity exports, mentioned the concern that Australia has had traditionally about the U.S. use of the export enhancement program, DEEP and EEP. The President repeated the commitment that he had made to Prime Minister Keating in the past, namely that the United States would not use EEP or DEEP in a way that would disadvantage nonsubsidizing countries like Australia in their traditional export markets.

There was a brief discussion of the Howe leather Section 301 case -- very brief because negotiations are ongoing between USTR Charlene Barshefsky and Trade Minister Tim Fischer and it appears as if we are moving toward settlement. Both men expressed a hope that that would occur shortly.

On regional issues, a good bit of time was spent on China and the importance of ensuring that China's integration into the world community and into the Asia Pacific occurs in a constructive manner rather than a destructive manner; that both countries share the desire of bringing China into an international rules-based system, both in the area of trade, human rights and also nonproliferation.

Both men, I think, repeated their desire to engage China constructively, not to isolate it. And both agreed to, in their dealings with China, try to drive home the message that nothing in the U.S.-Australian alliance is intended to isolate China or put it on the defensive.

There was a very brief discussion about Japan. Both men have met Hashimoto, enjoy his company, believe that he is a strong, creative, aggressive leader who understands the intersection between politics and economics. And both men affirm the importance of having a strong Japan as a stabilizing force in northeast Asia.

There was only brief mention of Korea, in passing; there may have been a discussion in that private session, but nothing in the larger session. And then toward the end of the meeting they both returned to the issue of the U.S.-Australia partnership and the fact that this trip was a celebration of that partnership and reaffirmed the desire to continue people-to-people and cultural ties. All in all, that lasted about 40, 45 minutes.

I think, as a quick assessment, it was clear that these two men share common values, share a common approach to both global issues, regional issues on the security side and on the economic side. There was a very easy interaction between them, a very easy give-and-take between them. And I think that we've gotten off to a good foot, on a good footing with the new John Howard government.

And that was about it.

Q There's been recent news reports that the Australian action plan for APEC has in it that they want to take a look at what the other Asian nations do before they go ahead and lower their tariffs. Did they discuss that and was that of any concern, that there seemed to have been a new quid pro quo on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was less of a discussion of the individual action plans either for Australia or for the United States, and more a recognition that the individual action plans that have captured the various first steps that the 18 economies are taking toward the 2020 Bogor goal of free trade, that those action plans capture current steps, rather than aggressive future steps, and a recognition that we were going to have to work hard between now and Vancouver to make these action plans more robust, more meaningful.

Q So he wasn't concerned about the fact that they seem to be backpedalling on that particular tariff?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was no discussion of specifics of the Australian plan or the U.S. plan. But there was a common commitment to try to take a lead in -- take the lead in Manila and push for improvement of individual action plans.

Q Was Zaire discussed at all during the meeting? Was the situation in Zaire discussed at all?


Q On the question of China, was there any discussion by the President about creating a level of U.S. exchanges with China?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. The President mentioned that he was seeing Jiang in Manila, which will be his fourth meeting and he was looking forward to that discussion, that it was important for him to talk with Jiang about WTO accession, the value of having China in the WTO on the right terms and that the United States would invest time and energy and purpose into bringing China into the WTO.

The President spoke, as he did at the press conference, about his view of how China should define its greatness in terms of its people and their capacity and the capacity of the economy to grow. He spoke about constructive engagement and his desire not to isolate China, and that integration was important for stability in the region.

Q Thank you.

END 1:55 P.M. (L)